December 8, 1997
Stream restoration needs reality
I feel the need to respond to letters about "stream restoration" to add reality to the discussion. Erosion of mud and gravel is a natural process which adds material to the stream bed elevating the stream bottom. When the stream reaches a certain elevation it cuts a new channel. However, society does not allow new channels to form as that will destroy roads, homes and property. Creating major new channels is a point that many "natural resource experts" ignore, perhaps because there is no "natural" solution.
It makes sense to attempt stream restoration with buffers and woody debris on mountain streams. However, on valley floor streams this makes less sense as flood waters should move quickly through the valley to minimize deposition of debris and soil. At some point in time the stream bottom will rise to the field level, held in place only by the natural dike created by flood events. The process is well under way in the Snoqualmie River.
In the early 1900's steam ships could travel all the way to Fall City, but no large ship could do that today. Dredging the entire river is out of the question, but somehow material must be removed from streams in the valley floor if society wishes to keep the same stream channel for the next 100 years. If we do not do something to maintain the current stream bottom elevation the ground water will rise and flooding will be more frequent. The Skokomish River is already at this stage.